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Abimelech Becomes King

Abimelech son of Jerub-Baal, also called Gideon, went to his uncles. They lived in the city of Shechem. He said to his uncles and all of his mother’s family group, “Ask the leaders of Shechem this question: ‘Is it better for you to be ruled by the 70 sons of Jerub-Baal or to be ruled by only 1 man?’ Remember, I am your relative.”

Abimelech’s uncles spoke to all the leaders of Shechem. They asked them that question. All the leaders decided to follow Abimelech. They said, “He is our brother.” So the leaders of Shechem gave Abimelech about one and three-fourths pounds of silver. The silver was from the temple of the god Baal-of-the-Agreement. Abimelech used the silver to hire some worthless, reckless men. They followed Abimelech wherever he went. Abimelech went to Ophrah, the hometown of his father. There Abimelech murdered his 70 brothers. They were the sons of Abimelech’s father, Gideon. He killed them all on one stone. But Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, hid from Abimelech and escaped. Then all of the leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo came together. They gathered beside the great tree at the stone pillar in Shechem. There they made Abimelech their king.

Jotham’s Story

When Jotham heard this, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim. Jotham shouted to the people: “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem. Then God may listen to you! One day the trees decided to appoint a king to rule over them. They said to the olive tree, ‘You be king over us!’

“But the olive tree said, ‘Men and gods are honored by my oil. Should I stop making it just to go and sway over the other trees?’

10 “Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king!’

11 “But the fig tree answered, ‘Should I stop making my sweet and good fruit? Should I stop just to go and sway over the other trees?’

12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king!’

13 “But the vine answered, ‘My wine makes men and gods happy. Should I stop making it just to go and sway over the trees?’

14 “Then all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’

15 “But the thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to appoint me king over you, come and find shelter in my shade! But if you do not want to do this, let fire come out of the thornbush. Let the fire burn up the cedars of Lebanon!’

16 “Now, were you completely honest and sincere when you made Abimelech king? Have you been fair to Gideon and his family? Have you treated Gideon as you should? 17 Remember, my father fought for you. He risked his life to save you from the power of the Midianites. 18 But now you have turned against my father’s family. You have killed my father’s 70 sons on one stone. You have made Abimelech king over the people of Shechem. He is the son of my father’s slave girl! You have made Abimelech king just because he is your relative. 19 So then, if you have been honest and sincere to Gideon and his family today, be happy with Abimelech as your king. And may he be happy with you! 20 But if you have not acted right, may fire come out of Abimelech! May that fire completely burn you leaders of Shechem and Beth Millo! Also may fire come out of the leaders of Shechem and burn up Abimelech!”

21 Then Jotham ran away. He escaped to the city of Beer. He lived there because he was afraid of his brother Abimelech.

Abimelech Fights Against Shechem

22 Abimelech ruled Israel for three years. 23 Then God sent an evil spirit to make trouble between Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem. So the leaders of Shechem turned against him. 24 Abimelech had killed Gideon’s 70 sons. They were Abimelech’s own brothers. And the leaders of Shechem had helped him kill them. So God sent the evil spirit to punish them. 25 The leaders of Shechem were against Abimelech then. They put men on the hilltops. These men attacked and robbed everyone who went by. Abimelech was told about these attacks.

26 A man named Gaal and his brothers moved into Shechem. He was the son of Ebed. The leaders of Shechem decided to trust and follow Gaal. 27 The people of Shechem went out to the vineyards to pick grapes. They walked on the grapes to make wine. Then they had a feast in the temple of their god. The people ate and drank and cursed Abimelech. 28 Then Gaal son of Ebed said, “We are the men of Shechem. Why should we obey Abimelech? Who does he think he is? Isn’t Abimelech one of Gideon’s sons? Didn’t Abimelech make Zebul his officer? We should not obey Abimelech! We should obey the men of Hamor, Shechem’s father. Why should we obey Abimelech? 29 If you made me commander of these people, I would get rid of Abimelech! I would say to him, ‘Get your army ready and come out to battle!’”

30 Now Zebul was the ruler of Shechem. He heard what Gaal son of Ebed said. And Zebul became very angry. 31 He sent messengers to Abimelech in the city of Arumah. The message said, “Gaal son of Ebed and Gaal’s brothers have come to Shechem. Gaal is turning the city against you! 32 So now you and your men should get up in the night. Then go lie in the fields outside the city. 33 When the sun comes up in the morning, attack the city. Gaal and his men will come out to fight you. Then do what you can to them.”

34 So Abimelech and all his soldiers got up during the night. They went near Shechem and separated into four groups. There they hid. 35 Gaal son of Ebed went out and was standing at the entrance to the city gate. As he was standing there, Abimelech and his soldiers came out of their hiding places.

36 When Gaal saw the soldiers, he said to Zebul, “Look! There are people coming down from the mountains!”

But Zebul said, “You are seeing the shadows of the mountains. The shadows just look like people.”

37 But again Gaal said, “Look, there are people coming down from the center of the land. And there is a group coming from the fortune-tellers’ tree!”

38 Zebul said to Gaal, “Where is your bragging now? You said, ‘Who is Abimelech? Why should we obey him?’ You made fun of these men. Now go out and fight them.”

39 So Gaal led the men of Shechem out to fight Abimelech. 40 Abimelech and his men chased them. Many of Gaal’s men were killed before they could get back to the city gate. 41 Then Abimelech stayed at Arumah. Zebul forced Gaal and his brothers to leave Shechem.

42 The next day the people of Shechem went out to the fields. Abimelech was told about it. 43 So he separated his men into three groups. And he hid them in the fields. When he saw the people coming out of the city, he jumped up and attacked them. 44 Abimelech and his group ran to the entrance gate to the city. The other two groups ran out to the people in the fields and killed them. 45 Abimelech and his men fought the city of Shechem all day. They captured it and killed its people. Then Abimelech tore down the city. And he threw salt[a] over the ruins so nothing would ever grow there.

The Tower of Shechem

46 The people who lived at the nearby Tower of Shechem heard what had happened to Shechem. So the leaders gathered in the safest room of the temple of the god Baal-of-the-Agreement. 47 Abimelech heard that all the leaders of the Tower of Shechem had gathered there. 48 So he and all his men went up to Mount Zalmon, near Shechem. Abimelech took an ax and cut some branches. Then he put them on his shoulders. He said to all his men with him, “Hurry! Do what I have done!” 49 So all those men cut branches and followed Abimelech. They piled the branches against the safest room of the temple. Then they set them on fire and burned the people in the room. So all the people who lived at the Tower of Shechem also died. There were about 1,000 men and women.

Abimelech’s Death

50 Then Abimelech went to the city of Thebez. He surrounded the city, attacked it and captured it. 51 But inside the city was a strong tower. All the men and women of that city ran to the tower. When they got inside, they locked the door behind them. Then they climbed up to the roof of the tower. 52 Abimelech came to the tower and attacked it. He went up to the door of the tower to set it on fire. 53 As Abimelech came near, a woman dropped a large stone for grinding grain on his head. The stone crushed Abimelech’s skull.

54 He quickly called to the officer who carried his armor. He said, “Take out your sword and kill me. I don’t want people to say, ‘A woman killed Abimelech.’” So the officer stabbed Abimelech, and he died. 55 When the people of Israel saw Abimelech was dead, they all returned home.

56 In that way God punished Abimelech for all the evil he had done. Abimelech had sinned against his own father by killing his 70 brothers. 57 God also punished the men of Shechem for the evil they had done. So the curse Jotham had spoken came true. (Jotham was the youngest son of Gideon.)

Footnotes

  1. 9:45 salt The salt would keep crops from growing there.

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